Surrounded by sketches and a busy work space, fourth-year studio art student Ronnie Clarke reflects on who she is.
"I would say Ronnie is a maker of things — a maker of things [who is] interested in performance, people and how people talk to each other," she says.
The Visual Arts Supporters' Association president, an audio/visual sign-out assistant and a communications and media outreach intern for the visual arts department, Ronnie does it all while creating art in and out of class. Ronnie enjoys studying people and incorporates what she learns into performance artwork — imitating, acting and reacting with spectators through movement.
"A lot of my work is not directly about people but it's reflective about people, because when you work in performance it's often with an audience so I'm very interested in studying behaviour," Ronnie begins. "Sometimes that's just being around people and having conversations, as weird as that is. Something that drives me is being able to connect with other people intellectually."
Ronnie was raised by immigrant parents who were adamant on encouraging their children to pursue art. Ronnie practiced ballet up until the end of high school, largely influenced by her mother who was a trained dancer.
After leaving dance, she continued her artistry by teaching herself how to play guitar and experimented with artistic forms of expression through participatory performance.
Though she was originally interested in painting when she first arrived at Western, Ronnie now expands her art beyond the canvas as she works on not only performance art but written work as well. She admits she dabbles in poetic forms of expression and finds theatre a fascinating display of performance as it plays with behaviour through a multifaceted narrative structure.
Trying these different modes of expression has become a huge factor in Ronnie's understanding of what choreography and movement is. Even though she primarily works on her art within the classroom, she also holds impromptu performances in the Visual Arts Centre to generate new thoughts for her next project and potential show.
Her performances question what choreography is and what defines movement. Often playing off what others around her are doing, she reacts and moves accordingly based on their involvement with the piece, whether it be following instructions read in her self-crafted glasses or interpreting music.
"Some people's goals are to sell. I really just want to be showing and performing and have potential to keep having these conversations. Art's always about talking to other people about what you're doing, what they're doing and getting feedback and advice on how to be a better person, not just a maker of things," she explains.
Looking into the future, Ronnie envisions a life surrounded by art or in a gallery setting. She believes that being in an artistic space is a privilege, and she wants to engulf herself in this world as much as possible, whether that means doing a show, teaching or working in an art institution.
She also pushes others to consider how influential art is because she recognizes how neglected artistic work has become in our society. She exemplifies this by looking at the artistry behind technology.
"A lot of people seem to forget how nuanced art is, and it's very pervasive in every day culture. Someone designed your laptop screen, the interface, someone is coding that software, someone is making sure your laptop fits in your bag, someone is designing the screen play of your favourite show," states Ronnie. "It's a bunch of people who are in the background of things. Life would not happen without [art] and it's so under the radar."
Dedicated to producing more conversations about art, Ronnie continues to prepare for her final evaluation by sketching ideas to enhance her performance while watching others go about their daily activities. Behaviour encourages her to do and think more abstractly and as she wraps up her final year in the fine arts program, the light in her eye proves that her work has only just begun.